Monday, July 16, 2007
Last September I was fortunate enough to see the first ever headlining rock concert that Lousiville, Kentucky's famed Churchill Downs had ever presented. The Rolling Stones played a searing two hour plus set that had the near 50,000 attending all on their feet throughout the show. Some major seating issues arose during the Stones set though and Churchill Downs second major concert that took place over the weekend was only opened for 30,000 fans but the show was no less exciting.
I'm not a big fan of the eighties. It is hard to think of another decade with such terrible fashion, movies and especially music. But it wasn't all bad as the current reunion of The Police attests to.
Apparently the last few shows that the reunited Police have given have resulted in some lackluster performances and reviews but they were absolutely smoking on Saturday night at America's most famous race track.
Hitting the stage nearly fifteen minutes early, after FictionPlane opened up the show with a solid if not totally memorable set, guitar player Andy Summers, drummer Stewart Copeland and bassist-lead singer Sting walked out on stage and immediately lit into a gloriously sloppy MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE that had everyone in the place on their feet. After flubbing the last bit, a still extraordinary looking Sting laughed at himself and the band quickly smashed into a scorching SYNCHRONICITY 11.
The early sloppiness was totally gone by the third song of the night WALKING ON THE MOON and the band played a pitch perfect show the rest of the evening.
Watching these three guys playing together I was struck by just how rare it is to see a band these days that are so well tuned into each other. While Sting is typically considered the leader of the group there was no sign of that Saturday night as all three clearly enjoyed their individual times in the spotlight. Vocally and on bass, Sting delivered splendidly the whole night, while Copeland still sounds like possibly the best drummer on the planet. Summers was the real jaw dropper though with consistently mind splitting guitar work and a handful of really astonishing guitar solos that had everyone in the stadium's jaws open.
Highlights of the main set included an astonishing DRIVEN TO TEARS, an eerie WRAPPED AROUND MY FINGER which gave Copeland his biggest spotlight of the night and a lovely reading of INVISIBLE SUN. The Police performed three encores including a long ROXANNE, a haunting KING OF PAIN and an absolutely frantic SO LONELY. The show closed with NEXT TO YOU which they played in front of a screen of rapidly moving images of them in the seventies and eighties.
The show was a real delight for me, and I am guessing a lot of other fans, as I never got the chance to see them the first time around. It would of course be nice to have them writing and performing new material but this tour is clearly just about three guys looking to go on stage without any of the baggage that clogged up their last tour...plus the piles of money they are making from this tour doesn't hurt either but my ticket only cost fifty bucks which is a lot cheaper than most bands you are going to see these days.
I was struck by how incredibly talented but different each man seems. Summer's looks very laid back and seems content to play the part of the lesser known and let Sting and Copeland's egos fight it out while he stuns musically. Copeland is incredible and one has to just look at the intensity on this guys face when he plays to know how much he means it. Sting hasn't seemed so relaxed and simultaneously fired up in years. With his once very interesting solo career slipping into needless repetition he seems to be revelling just rocking out again. All three of them, no matter what might be happening backstage, clicked like few other bands I have ever seen Saturday night. It was a real treat and hearing Sting's embittered reading of the dangerously obsessive EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE towards the end almost made me nostalgic for a period I never thought I would be.
Catch The Police on tour while you can, I have a feeling their performances will continue to get even sharper as they go along, and that it will no doubt end with them splintering again.